November 28, 2012
I’ve had a lot of guests in Sicily.
One spoke no Italian at all and kept roping me into doing her linguistic dirty work.
She loved shopping. We entered Max Mara, a high-end clothing shop. “See if you can haggle with them!” she said, fingering a leather jacket.
I demurred, but she insisted. So I sheepishly asked for a discount on a jacket that was not on sale. The shop clerk looked stunned.
Later, at a bar with a caseful of glittering pastries, she pointed at a pretty little ricotta-filled number. “Ask if it is fresh!” she kept insisting.
Reluctantly I did.
“Of course it’s fresh, signora,” the barista said with an offended look in his eye that his extreme politesse could not hide. “It is our specialty.”
The experiences reminded me of a time at a business dinner when I was called upon to translate dirty Italian jokes into English. Stutter. Blush. Torture.
Have you ever been pressured to translate words you’d rather not say?